IN THE INTEREST OF J.A. and M.K., Minor Children, K.S.K., Mother, Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Dallas County, Virginia
Cobb, District Associate Judge.
mother appeals the termination of her parental rights to two
E. Verdoorn of Sporer & Flanagan, Des Moines, for
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Ana Dixit, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee State.
Stratton of Juvenile Public Defender's Office, Des
Moines, guardian ad litem for minor children.
Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Tabor and Mullins, JJ.
mother, Kathryn, appeals the juvenile court's decision to
terminate her parental rights to two children, three-year-old
J.A. and two-year-old M.K. She challenges the sufficiency of
the State's proof of the statutory grounds for
termination and contends termination is not in the best
interests of the children. After independently reviewing the
record, we find clear and convincing evidence the children
cannot be safely returned to Kathryn's care and
termination is in their best interests.
Background Facts and Proceedings
family first came to the attention of the Iowa Department of
Human Services (DHS) in the summer of 2014 after Kathryn
filed a domestic-abuse petition against the father,
Johnnie. The DHS had concerns about the continuing
domestic violence perpetrated by Johnnie and about the
parents' drug use around the children. The juvenile court
ordered J.A. to be removed from his parents' custody due
to these concerns.
placed J.A. in foster care in August 2014. Kathryn began
mental-health treatment that same month at the recommendation
of the DHS. A few months after she began therapy, she and
Johnnie were married. The juvenile court adjudicated J.A. a
child in need of assistance (CINA) in November 2014.
was generally consistent with therapy for the next two years,
but she discontinued treatment in October 2016. Kathryn
worked with a therapist on issues concerning domestic
violence. The therapist testified Kathryn was "a natural
caregiver" and would often get "sucked back"
into a dangerous relationship with Johnnie when he needed
help due to his mental-health and substance-abuse issues. The
therapist believed Kathryn was eventually able to identify
these triggers, and the two of them explored strategies for
Kathryn to leave Johnnie safely. The therapist did not note
any substance-abuse problems at the beginning of
Kathryn's therapy. Kathryn confided she had an
"addiction" to the relationship with Johnnie rather
than to controlled substances.
and Johnnie participated in services provided by the DHS and
moved to semi-supervised visits in March 2015. The juvenile
court held a review hearing the following month and found
Kathryn and Johnnie were making progress. J.A. returned to
his parents' care in mid-April for a trial home visit.
progress Kathryn and Johnnie exhibited in the months after
J.A. was adjudicated a CINA stalled near the end of his first
trial home visit. Kathryn, who was pregnant with M.K. at the
time, testified she stopped living with Johnnie in June 2015.
According to Kathryn, Johnnie had threatened to hurt her, so
she decided to leave him. This incident of domestic violence
resulted in another ...